Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tortillas di mais fatte da noi!

My passion for cooking is now well-known among my friends, and so I received four cookbooks for my birthday. There are never too many cookbooks at home, right? :) One of them is a wonderful, original, Mexican cookbook given to me by Romelia, a mexican friend of mine. It's written by a Mexican writer, Susanna Palazuelos. The book is gorgeous, there are wonderful pictures of Mexico and of the food - the title is right: 'Mexico, the beautiful cookbook'. Romelia gave it to me at the University, and when I brought it to my office, Nicola and I started looking at it and decided it was a great excuse to cook together a Mexican-inspired meal!
Nicola had 2 huge packets (4 lb each) of Masa Harina - both he and his mom bought one, thinking it would be a good corn flour to make polenta. Too bad it really isn't. :) Masa Harina is not corn flour the way we usually intend: it is made by boiling corn kernels in water and calcium hydroxide, then the kernels are washed and ground to make a flour. The masa harina we buy in the stores is then dried (I don't know if it's possible to buy fresh masa, here). So, this treatment gives the flour a very peculiar taste and consistency - definitely not good for polenta... but exactly what you need to make a huge amount of tortillas, which is what Nicola, Giovanna and I did last night. :)

Tortillas di mais con verdure, fagioli e formaggio / Corn tortillas with vegetables, black beans and cheese
Making tortillas turned out to be extremely easy: just mix ~2 cups of masa with 1 1/4 cups water and a pinch of salt. Knead for 2-3 minutes, then devide the dough in about 8 balls, the size of a big walnut. Knead each ball for a few more seconds, before pressing it. It would be very cool to have the tortilla press, which of course, we didn't have. So, we used a rolling pin. To do so, place a sheet of plastic wrap on the table, then put your ball of dough on it, press it with your hand a bit. Place another sheet of plastic wrap on top, and roll the dough down with a rolling pin, trying to make it round and thin. The final round shape should be ~4 inches in diameter. Remove one sheet of plastic wrap, place the tortilla on your hand, peel off also the other sheet of plastic, and place the tortilla on a hot anti-sticking pan. Cook for ~20 seconds, then turn, cook for another 20 seconds, turn again and cook for a final 15 seconds.. and you're done!! Really easy. Of course, our tortillas weren't as round and pretty as the store-bought ones, but they were _much_ better in taste.

We prepared some vegetables and beans to put inside the tortilla: we made a stir-fry of onions, zucchini, poblano peppers, red peppers and mushroom (with olive oil, sprinkled with pepper - really good and spicy, thanks to the poblano peppers). For the beans, we went for the easy canned black beans, and we added them to sautee onions in olive oil, cooking them until almost all the liquid was adsorbed. I added salt, pepper and honey to them, while cooking. Both the beans and the vegetables were delicious.

We also prepared some Queso fundido con champinones y rajas de poblano (melted cheese with mushrooms and poblano peppers) (idea from the Mexican cookbook)- you can see the pepper version here and on the right bottom corner of my tortilla. This was easily prepared by microwaving for 1 minute some good mild cheddar cheese decorated with stripes of pepper or pieces of mushrooms.

The cheese was great to eat also with our home-made tortilla chips:
We prepared these by cutting into pieces some of our tortillas, and baking them in the oven at 450 F for ~ 5 minutes. We went for the baked healthy version, but traditionally they should be deep fried. Still, the healthy version was quite good! You can see here Giovanna kneading the dough and Nicola eating the tortilla chips with salsa. :)
Making tortillas and eating them in such a nice company was a lot of fun. Must be repeated! :)


Nora B. said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Marta!!! Sorry, if I am a bit late...

Marta, such a fantastic feast you made there with your friends. Even homemade tortilla chips! I'm sure that you will be enjoying your cookbooks for a very long time.

Candace Dempsey said...

Whew, I am so impressed. And you've convinced me that I could pull off a handmade tortilla myself, something I've never thought of. Not to worry about the tortilla press. Just by coincidence I saw on another blog that they're a waste of time. See here

chemcookit said...

Hello Nora! Thanks a lot for your wishes! I did have fun with my friends making Mexican food. So good and so great to cook together. :)

Hey Candace! Thanks! What an interesting thing: in the blog you mention, they use olive oil and water in the dough.. it may be nice to try it, we were thinking about it especially for the chips. I'll ask a Mexican person if they have ever heard of this variation.